Floating Cities

Squeezed between rising populations, rising seas, and threatened ecosystems, cities need new options, including a real-world approach to the formerly fanciful vision of offshore communities.

Bright and dark visions of humanity spreading from land to life offshore have been around for decades, with variants ranging from hopeful—a vaulting pyramid-shaped floating city conceived for Tokyo Bay in the 1960s by R. Buckminster Fuller—to involuntary, as with straggling survivors of a flooded planet building ragtag “atolls” in the dystopian 1995 film Waterworld.

The developers, a company called Oceanix and partners including the Danish architect Bjarke Ingels, insist this time is different.

They envision an eventual galaxy of satellite “cities” built where coastal urbanization is hitting limits. They would consist of mass-produced, storm-worthy hexagonal floating modules, towed into position, moored and connected in larger arrays topped by sustainably built housing, workplaces, recreational and religious facilities, and the rest. Ferries and drones would be a tie line to shore. The communities would be sustained as much as possible with local solar and other renewable energy, recirculating water and rainwater, and local food production.

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